FLICKS

LADIES IN BLACK (PG)

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - EYE HOROSCOPES - WITH LEIGH PAATSCH

A BEAU­TI­FUL OUT­FIT, CUT FROM THE RIGHT MA­TE­RIAL DI­REC­TOR: BRUCE BERES­FORD (DRIV­ING MISS DAISY)

STAR­RING: AN­GOURIE RICE, JU­LIA OR­MOND, SUSIE PORTER, RACHAEL TAY­LOR, ALI­SON MC­GIRR, NONI HAZLEHURST, RYAN CORR

As­in­cerely sweet bun­dle of nos­tal­gic joy, the fine new Aus­tralian movie

Ladies in Black is un­wrapped amid a lovely, light-drenched and laid-back Syd­ney we will never see the likes of again.

Di­rected by Bruce Beres­ford from the novel Women in Black by Madeleine St John, the en­joy­able and easy-to-fol­low story told here spans the sum­mer of 1959.

To while away an ag­o­nis­ing wait for exam re­sults that may get her into uni­ver­sity, a bright teenager lands a po­si­tion as a sales as­sis­tant at Goodes, the city’s finest depart­ment store.

While learn­ing a lit­tle about style, com­merce and cus­tomer ser­vice dur­ing work­ing hours, Lisa (a lu­mi­nous An­gourie Rice) learns a lot about life after hours from Magda (Ju­lia Or­mond), the im­pe­ri­ous head of the store’s glam­our out­fits sec­tion.

The other “ladies in black” who work the cloth­ing coun­ters on the same floor at Goodes are more than a lit­tle wary of Magda. It is not so much her bossy na­ture that raises hack­les, as it is the way she trades on the ex­otic na­ture of her eth­nic back­ground.

This was an era where war­time refugees from Eu­rope who had re­set­tled in Aus­tralia were of­ten viewed with out­right sus­pi­cion by de­fault. The lo­cals kept their dis­tance, and let “the ref­fos” do their own thing.

As Lisa gains some valu­able con­fi­dence nav­i­gat­ing her new and ex­cit­ing work­place, she also be­comes a so­cial bridge be­tween the var­i­ous fac­tions at Goodes.

Though Ladies in Black al­ways trades ably on its glo­ri­ous looks – the pe­riod pro­duc­tion de­sign and vin­tage fash­ions are both ex­quis­ite – there is a the­matic sub­stance be­hind all that style which is not to be de­nied.

The movie def­i­nitely has some­thing to say on a sur­pris­ingly wide spec­trum of themes, not the least of which in­clude our cul­ture’s tol­er­ance of out­siders, and the lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded to women in both the work­place and the halls of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

While a good time is def­i­nitely in the off­ing here, younger view­ers un­fa­mil­iar with Aus­tralia in a sim­pler, but also harsher time will walk away some­what en­light­ened as well as en­ter­tained.

It must also be noted that the act­ing en­sem­ble on dis­play, which in­cludes Rachael Tay­lor, Susie Porter, Noni Hazlehurst and promis­ing new­comer Ali­son Mc­Girr, is flaw­less.

In fact, it is hard to name a bet­ter-cast Aus­tralian movie than this in re­cent times.

ALI­SON MC­GIRR, AN­GOURIE RICE AND RACHAEL TAY­LOR FEA­TURE AMONG AN IM­PRES­SIVE EN­SEM­BLE CAST IN LADIES IN BLACK.

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